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Who play's bass for a living?

Tony Diez

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I love playing the bass it's my release, but I don't do it for a living, in fact I don't personally know many bassist that soley play bass for a living.


I know there are some on this board, I'm just curious how many are out there that can say their livilyhood is the bass guitar. It must be hard, even if your a schooled, bad to the bone bassist. But I guess if your a studio musician there would be a little more consitant work. But anyway, just curious.


And if you don't play bass for a living what do you do? I'm a respiratory therapist.



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You made me think about this - I consider myself to be a bassist (I do more sessions than live dates). I also run a recording studio, where I engineer and produce. I also write articles and reviews for the audio trade magazines.


So I make a living as a bassist? Not solely as such anymore, but since a combination of all of my work is my living, being a professional bassist is certainly a part of that. In any case, it's not a hobby or just some extra money.

Dave Martin

Java Jive Studio

Nashville, TN



Cuppa Joe Records


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I wish it could be my full time job. I really love writing and producing. Where I live it's hard to get noticed. I travel and get myself around as much as I can trying to get more consistant gigs, but you can only do so much. Dose anyone have any tips on how better to become a full time bassist?
I didn't come here to play. I came here to make babies.
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I play for a living. If you could call it that. ;) I had fat day gig with GK for about 2 years, then I became a budget cut and I went back to playing full time. I have to split things between 2 bands and solo shows. It seems to be working so far. So far. There's no shame in having a day job. When you are feeding your family and have some cash for new gear there's nothing at all wrong with that!
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Originally posted by Tony Diez:

Originally posted by MartinJ:

Who spell's for a living? Anyone?



Not me, do you know anyone that does? Or better yet, is there a spell checker on the board.
Yes, you can use the 'Spell Check' button before you post. I was taking a shot at the 's that seems to be used incorrectly so often.


Also, Tony, you should know that there is a great deal of good-natured kidding and teasing here, so please don't be offended by by dumb jokes. :confused:

C.V.: Snowboarder (1983-), Bass Owner (1996-), Chemistry Teacher (1997-) & Serious Bass Student (2003-)
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My wife is a secretary for a middle school principal, and has worked as an editor and proofreader. I've written a few things here and there that she's helped me with. You could say she spells for a living.


I have one of those "day job" things. I've never lived the bass life, but things have been OK for me. I'm lucky because I like my job. I'm not that lucky because the economy makes things tough (that's true for all of us - bass or not).




Acoustic Color


Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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I feel fortunate that my day gig is related to music. I'm the president of American Federation of Musicians, Local 153. One of the main functions I have at the local is to negotiate symphony, opera, ballet & theater agreements. I still have the flexibility to take daytime gigs during the week days. I did nothing else but music from 1967 to 1987 when I began doing day gigs along with playing.



I have basses to play, places to be and good music to make!
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I've been a professional musician for my entire adult life. Yes, I'm first and foremost a bassist, but sometimes I'm a guitarist (as in my current project), a vocalist, a keyboardist or a percussionist. It depends on what the situation calls for.
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I make my entire living playing bass, teaching music (bass, piano, gtr, percussion, theory...), perfoming as a hired gun, as a soloist and as a session player. Session work is really hit and miss. Prior to my daughter's birth I was doing much more..but have cut back drastically.


Being a "pro" player, meaning to make a living at it, reuqies one be a bit entrepenerial (yea... I should do a spell check on that!). You gotta keep on your toes and prowl around for work.

That means teaching, playing gigs, doing sound, writing (I have been published both by Mel Bay and Bassics Magazine)...and sessions.

I have been blessed as I make a pretty good living doing this.....I just bought my second house! But, it is hard work, and not very secure.

Some months are very full, others very meager. I used to really rely on gigs, and my record was 47 shows in one month.........


For teaching I have been blessed with 3 different grants from the California Arts Council (that is prior to the current fiscal crisis which has caused these to seriously dwindle). I am an Artist In Residence, and as such teach elementary and middle school kids music in six-week residencies at mutiple schools around central California. I also had a grant thru the Calif. Dept. of Corrections which had me teaching music to inmates at a number of state penal institutions....and that led to a tour a couple years back of prisons; solo bass shows at 7 prisons (talk about a captive audience!)



...it's not the arrow, it's the Indian.
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I guess it all depends on what's considered a living. For 13 years I lived off the 25-30 thousand I made a year just playing bass. For the last 5 years I've definitely had to supplement that with teaching and things like temping in the wintertime. Thirty grand in NYC doesn't go very far and I'm older and don't want to live on the edge.


The cover story of the latest edition of the Local 802 newsletter is entitled "Where have all the clubdates gone". There has been a steep drop in the number of weddings and casuals over the last 3 years and the newsletter said that only leaders were making enough money off it to "live". They said that sidemen that were making $30 grand a year off of playing dates should consider themselves wildly successful. Overall it was a very depressing issue but one that I found to be accurate in the clubdate world. Many of my friends have hit the road with touring companies of Broadway shows and I've sent out resumes to Cirque du Soleil, Big Apple Circus etc.


I still gig 3-5 times a week and consider myself lucky to work that much but weekday gigs pay less and teaching is something I've definitely had to hustle up.


All the players I've studied with (a couple of them jazz legends) teach.


It's sad. In the tri-state area when I stared in early 80 you could really work, just playing bass 4-6 nights a week and make the bread, and it was cheaper here too.

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Just do it for fun and some weekend chump change, as gigs around here pay only 40 to 70 bucks a person. Just from talking with professionals and touring musicians over the years, I didn't like the uncertainties of making a living at it, especially with a wife and two kids at the time.


After retiring from the Navy (1996) and my divorce that year, a couple of opportunities to start 'the musicians life' presented themselves, but I declined.


I'm very happy having no pressure to feed myself playing music. No pressure, no worries, still a buttload of fun! Woohoo!

Bassplayers aren't paid to play fast, they're paid to listen fast.
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i survived for a few months last spring by playing while unemployed. not exactly playing for a living, since it was supplementing my savings, but i couldn't have done without it.


also, i'm an electrical engineer who has always worked in the audio industry. currently i work for peavey. previously i had worked for crown. in between i sold hi-fi at classic stereo and video in michigan. audio rulez.



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I think I've posted this before:


I do not play for a living, but I do live to play. My day gig does support my habit. :D


I can be one of the semi-pro/amateurs that can afford really nice gear, like my overpriced Warwick and my nice Demeter gear. :D


My favorite line is from basstasters.com speaking of the sample clips of their playing: Many of these are not pretty - and hey, we're not pros. If we were, we probably couldn't afford most of this gear.


Seriously, at my relatively young age, I'm making 3 times in salary plus benefits compensation as I could if I was playing for a living, but that's just me. I do not have the confidence in my talents to "go for it." I had opportunities, but I never pulled the trigger.

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Music is also my full time living. Having a family and lots of responsibilities (can anyone say "health insurance?") I made the conscious decision NOT to pursue playing full time.


At the heighth of my URB playing (about 1985) I was technically ready to make a push for playing symphonic classical music. That would require about 10 grand minimum in a bass (1985 dollars) and 8 hours/day practice. Plus auditions all over the country. If I were lucky enough to land a gig, I'd relocate. Since wife was pregant with third child, I decided not to do this.


Instead, I became an orchestra director in a broken public high school. I started there with 6 kids, didn't know the G scale. 9 years later, I have 55 kids, and 3 consecutive UIL Sweepstakes awards (the Texas equivalent of "best orchestra in class" and the goal of every Texas school director.)


Oddly enough, teaching music in public school has placed me in a position to get to play more often. Having a regular schedule, plus summers and holidays off makes it uniquely possible for me to accept gigs I couldn't before. So I'm doin' okay in the gigging department.


Most of the guys I play with gig full time. As Max and abaguer said, it requires them to secure their own gigs, and it is unsteady work...good times/bad times effect the amount of work you get, and you supplement by teaching.


One thing not mentioned, I think: If you play for your living, you wind up having to take jobs that are not desirable...low pay, bad conditions, bad co-players, bad times. These can be a drag, and rob you of the joy of playing music. Because I don't depend on playing as my sole source of income, I don't have to do anything I don't want to do. Lots of freedom there.


If I were single, unattached, in good health, I might be willing to do the free lance thing. But with family and home, I could never do that.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.


Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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I have been a professional bass player for some eight years and 2000 odd gigs now, I have made some income teaching but mostly I have made a living gigging 3-5 times a week. Prior to this I was in and out of different bands and day jobs until I found a band that could work enough to make it all worthwhile.


I think I made the transition to being a full time muso when I stopped being precious about the type of music I was prepared to play. If your prepared to look at the opportunities available and go to where the money is, it's much easier to make a living.


Too many freinds of mine, most of the best muso's I know, no longer play because they have been so disheartened that their band they have spent so long writing tunes for has failed to attract any interest.


It at times like these I find that sometimes we need to recharge our batteries with something mindlessly commercial, try buying a drum machine/sequencer and forming a duo with a guitarist/singer, or playing some commercial covers for a while.


It is important to understand that at the base level of our industry most of us are in fact beer salesmen. In order for a venue to pay for PA,Lighting,security,DJ and a band they have to be selling a lot of drinks, and the fees you can command are as much a function of this as your quality and profile i.e. if your venue has a capacity of only a hundred it's going to be hard to make enough money for you to command a decent fee.


The most common phenomena I see that keeps muso's out of work is Jazz or Heavy metal obsession. I LOVE fusion, who wouldn't, who would want to live in a world where Jaco or Stanley Clarke or any of the great fusion bass players had never played, not I for one. I can also think of at least a hundred amazing metal musicians whom I truly admire and respect for their immense talent and creativity.


Unfortunately for us muso's however the vast overwhelming majority of the punters in the world remain indifferent and sometimes actively hostile to music as art, and reveer instead the most truly awful cynical corporate tripe imaginable (see American Icon).


Sometimes in order to work you just have to bend a bit.


In terms of job security I have found it's a little better than other jobs I have had because I don't have a single employer, I have many. I was made redundant from my job at a Telco 10 years ago and subsequently laid off as a contractor in another business doing internal cabling when they went bankrupt. At least as a muso I may lose a gig here and there but the likelyhood of all of the venues I work at failing at once is non existant. Sometimes it's better not to have all your eggs in one basket.


And sometimes it's really nice to know you can tell someone to shove their Lousy PA and attitude, knowing yourve got 4 more bosses who love your work.

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